If you were like me, you misguidedly stayed up to watch the Twins get blown out yet again last night. I was fooled by a team that was in a 3-3 game in the 9th inning, the dependable Brandon Kintzler was on the mound, then the next thing I know the Royals have turned the infield into a merry-go-round as a handful of Twins relievers are attempting to put out a blaze with gasoline. It’s actually quite impressive how fast this team goes from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye. That’s a metaphor, I don’t mean that the Twins are literally giving up that many runs per game, though you can be forgiven for being mistaken.
It should be pretty clear that only one facet of the game needs to be addressed by the new president of baseball operations and general manager. The offense is fine. It could use some tweaks - I’m looking at you, Byron Buxton - but overall the bats have been adequate this year. Before Tuesday’s game, the Twins were tied for 9th in the majors in isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) at .172, so they’re hitting for power. Their batting average of .258 was 12th. They were walking in 8.1% of their plate appearances, right in the middle of the pack at 16th. Weighted on-base average (wOBA) was tied for 11th at .322 and their wRC+ of 98, though technically below average since 100 is the midpoint, was still in a five-way tie for 12th place in the majors. Even those pesky strikeouts that we bemoaned at the beginning of the year have occurred 22.2% of the time compared to the league average of 21%. The offense hasn’t been the problem.
Now take a look at the pitching side... or don’t, if you want to keep your innocence.
Strikeout percentage (18.6%): 28th
Batting average allowed (.284): 30th
Home runs per 9 innings (1.43): 29th
ERA (5.21): 29th (probably 30th after last night)
FIP (4.63): Tied 27th
It’s the same old story and it’s frustrating that once again this was an area that needs to be addressed. Sure, players like Kyle Gibson and Tyler Duffey have regressed and others such as Glen Perkins and Trevor May have been hurt this year. Additionally, the rumors of a juiced baseball (and the undeniable fact that we’re witnessing a surge in home runs similar to the Steroid Era) have aided in why the Twins offense is acceptable while the pitching is terrible. Still, the pitching needs to be fixed and it’ll be a tall task.
I hate to say it, but if the new PoBA and GM choose to trade away some position players for pitching, on paper it’s most likely the right move. Granted, other teams will be in the same boat with the increase of power around the league and thus it’ll be an arms race (pun not intended) to accumulate the strongest pitching staff. Nonetheless, it’s the main thing holding the Twins back right now. They will need to find a way to outbid other teams for trade assets and free agents if they want to become competitive again in the future.